2019 World Series Preview: Astros vs. Nationals

Justin Verlander. Photo by Canadian Press/Shutterstock (10376893j)

The 2019 World Series is finally upon us, with Game 1 of the title clash between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals taking place on Tuesday night.

The Houston Astros, who finished with the top record in all of Major League Baseball this season, will hold home-field advantage in the series. They were widely expected to make the Fall Classic and were a popular pick to win the title throughout the season.

The Nationals, on the other hand, are a surprise in this position. After coming back to beat the Brewers in the NL Wild Card Game, they pulled off a shocking upset of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS before sweeping the overmatched Cardinals in the NLCS to earn their first-ever World Series berth.

Let’s take a look at the matchup to see who owns the edge.

Starting Rotation

The Astros and Nationals have arguably the two best starting pitching rotations in baseball. Each team has a formidable three-headed monster, with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke representing Houston and Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin representing Washington.

These are likely the only starters that we’ll see in the series, and this looks to be a doozy of a matchup. Cole might have been the best pitcher in baseball this season, with Verlander not far behind him. Greinke has struggled in the playoffs with Houston, but we still give the slightest of edges to Houston due to their playoff experience and their performance in a more difficult league for pitching.

Advantage: Houston Astros (slight)

Bullpen

The Astros had the better bullpen over the regular season, that much is for certain. They have a balanced group with Roberto Osuna at closer and a bevy of right and left-handed options that are solid, such as Wade Miley, Will Harris, and Hector Rondon. It isn’t a strength for the ‘Stros, but it isn’t a weakness either.

Nationals’ bullpen was the worst in baseball in the regular season, but it has been hot in the postseason. Daniel Hudson, their closer, has shut the door, allowing a grand total of zero runs in 5 appearances. The Nats have tried to compensate for this weakness by using their starting pitchers in relief appearances too, to mixed results.

The long-term numbers don’t lie. The Astros have an edge here.

Advantage: Houston Astros

Offense

The Houston Astros, quite simply, have the best offense in baseball. They have MVP-caliber players all over the diamond, with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Alex Bregman all being in the conversation as the best players at their respective positions in baseball. Their absurd .272/.352/.495 regular season team slash line is one of the best in the history of the game. They’ve been a little quieter in the playoffs, however.

The Nats might not have quite the offense that Houston does, but it’s quite good as well. Anthony Rendon might well be the NL MVP this season, and Juan Soto is arguably the best young hitter in baseball. They don’t quite have the lineup depth that Houston does, however, with question marks at positions like second base and center field.

Advantage: Houston Astros

Defense

This is a little easier to evaluate than the other categories thanks to the straightforward advanced metrics that are available.

Both teams have middle-of-the-pack defenses, with players like Victor Robles (Washington) and George Springer (Houston) as strengths and liabilities like Yuli Gurriel (Houston) and Adam Eaton (Nationals) making them pretty even here.

Advantage: Even

Final Prediction

The Nationals have made an incredible run to this point, and we don’t expect them to give up without a major fight. The Astros, however, are the better team from top-to-bottom on paper, and they hold a big offensive advantage. They are also working with home-field advantage, so it’s not easy to go against them. We’re taking them in 6 games to win their second title in the past three years.

Houston Astros in 6